A life on the field

Currently, I work on two main project. The first one is the national River Health Programme which aim at monitoring the evolution of river health in South Africa. Our team then survey the major river of KwaZulu Natal : +/- 40 sites 4 times a year. I mainly visit the catchment of the Umgeni and Thukela rivers.

The “Mighty Condor”, our field vehicle which bravely lead us off the beaten paths ! 


The nice part of a life on the field is that I can enjoy remote place that are not always that easily accessible for the common tourist. One of my favorite place is the Kamberg Nature Reserve in the Drakensberg Mountains. 

In Kambeg, as in many reserves in KZN,  we get to stay the night in traditional “Thatch”. They are usually cosy and well equipped.
It’s summer time… it can be quite hot even at 8 am. We try to have early starts !
Landscapes in the Berg are breathtaking !

When I can, I try to enjoy the place a little bit… this is rarely the case ! In Kamberg, we decided to take a short hike to a cave and a waterfall. Well, after that, we had a late working day. But, totally worth it !


A few steps away from home, the impressive Howick Fall with a drop of about 120m. Historically, eels were present beyond this formidable obstacle. Can you believe it ?!


Assuming my infallible style…
Nice catch !

On top of that, I also work on a brand new telemetry project – remotely tacking of fish behaviour ! This is quite fascinating. For that project, I need to equipped eels and yellowfish with smart telemetry tags, surgically !

My first surgery was quite stressful (for me, not for the fish !) but everything went smoothly and I was able to tag 3 yellowfish. This is rather good knowing the constraints : we need big fat fish over 1,5 kg… and they’re not that easy to catch !

Being an ecologist can sometime be quite frustrating : 4 days outdoor with an average working day of 10-12h with boiling heat… and no eels ! Sometimes, it’s a lot of energy for almost nothing – but, well, we get to make magical memories and to go pretty extraordinary places… I can’t get always get the cake and eat it too.

Few minutes before my first “surgery”… I was not feeling to brave.
Our beloved “Mighty Condor” went a little bit too fast and too far off the beaten tracks… We borrowed the little sister !
Set up of my “field hospital”
Almost ready !


I sometime get volunteer to help me on the field. Here is one of the lucky one !


I don’t always sleep in fancy accomodations. This time, it was more rustic, in an old dairy. I rather have it like this anyway !

The danger ?!?

There are the obvious dangers…

When you see one, you can bet there’s more… Nice when wander around in an inflatable boat ! 

And, an invisible danger : bilharzia !

The bilha-what ? Bilharziasis (or schistosomiasis) is a chronic parasitosis caused by worms (trematodes) of the genus Schistosoma. These worms develop during a cycle where they also infect an intermediate host, a small mollusc living in the rivers … which will therefore release the larvae. These larvae will then contaminate their final host…humans who will have been in contact with infested water. Well, to be faire, a simple splash is enough (scary, eh ?!). These little worms will end their cycle and return to the river via urine. This parasite is particularly present in areas of rural Africa (and in tropical and subtropical areas at risk in general) where poorer populations do not have access to drinking water and adequate sanitation .

Fortunately, a very effective treatment, praziquantel, is available. Again, not necessarily to the most affected (often the most remote) communities that do not necessarily have access to appropriate health care.

You can’t always take a swim without taking a risk !

See you soon for my next adventure !

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